What does church look like in creative access countries?
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Julie* lives in a creative access nation where almost the entire population are Muslim. We asked her what church and fellowship with other Christians looks like for her and for local believers.
Living as a light
Our team of five adults and six children are able to meet regularly because it is tolerated that as foreigners we meet other foreigners to worship. A group of Africans from neighbouring countries also meet regularly with some of us. They have all moved here as professionals for employment reasons, and increasingly have a vision for living as a light in the darkness here. But neither of these groups – which to us are church – are places where we are able to welcome our local brothers, though we would love to. Whilst a foreigner’s faith is tolerated, a local associating with us would often result in very real persecution.
Courageous in Christ
Whilst sharing the gospel in traditional ways is almost impossible, God is still at work through his disciples, leading many to himself. Julie* explains:
I meet for fellowship regularly with a local sister who has been a believer for many years. She has a great knowledge of the Bible, especially Jesus’s words, and a determined conviction to live out these words. In her workplace, each day begins with some teaching from a local Muslim religious leader. My sister is very good at asking questions or making comments, and these have in the past caused disagreement with the lady who teaches. On a couple of occasions she has been banished from these classes for a few weeks.
Recently the lady stopped teaching. After some time, she approached my friend to discuss the fact that she had had a few dreams, some in which she was being told to stop teaching as she was not speaking the truth. My friend has delighted in speaking to and directing her colleague to Google certain phrases, which has led to her reading portions of Scripture of her own seeking, and returning to my friend with more questions.
Last month a local believer died. Whilst his friend was informing people, he expressed gratitude for the fact that he had been granted a natural death and wasn’t murdered for being considered an apostate. This man had been afforded some earthly protection due to a pretty unique position, but his driver has since been approached by the government to give a list of all the people he visited. This has caused some obvious concern for our local brothers. In this culture, people generally have little reason to trust anyone else, and this attitude can flow into relationships with other believers.
A local church?
We are acquainted with a very small number of local believers in this place, and suspect there are more. On the whole they keep very separate from us. If they were to meet for fellowship it would be with one, or at the most two, other local believers. To the extent that we, as individuals, can meet with local brothers or sisters, our relationships are those of mutual fellowship and encouraging them to meet together, determining for themselves what a local church would look like under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Such meetings of local believers can and do attract the attention of authorities who have imprisoned and expelled believers from the country in the past.
He will build his Church
Yet we have assurance that the Lord will build his church among these people, and nothing will prevail against it, even the challenges described above. We live here to share hope and truth, whilst praying that those who already know this will seek to meet with others.
* Names are withheld for security purposes.